If there is one place in London where the worlds of haute cuisine and haute couture collide most frequently, it must be Sketch, the phenomenally successful collaboration between restaurateur Mourad Mazouz and chef Pierre Gagnaire. The 18th-century Conduit Street building houses the Gallery, a brasserie; the Lecture Room & Library, a two-Michelin-starred restaurant; the Parlour, a tea room; and two high-spirited bars.
It is also remarkable for its loos – egg-shaped pods with interior walls covered in Swarovski-crystal spiders’ webs, created by designer Mehbs Yaqub and deeply enchanting, yet somewhat disorientating after a couple of martinis. Nadja Swarovski was so impressed with the Sketch project that she donated the crystals for the Lecture Room curtains.
The food sparkles, too. Gagnaire, like his friend Mazouz, has a playful touch and a penchant for unusual combinations: the brasserie offers foie gras terrine with milk chocolate, fig paste and beetroot syrup, for instance, while in the Lecture Room an intricate lamb dish includes quinoa, bottarga and honey from Regent’s Park.
Sketch is a feast for the senses, and its success is due in large part, I think, to its creators’ restless imagination and enthusiasm, and most of all their continual reinvention of the venue. The Gallery (pictured) was revamped last year to feature the mordant wit of Turner Prize nominee David Shrigley and there are not only hundreds of his inimitable drawings, but also his crockery: salt and pepper pots labelled “Dust”, “Nothing” and “Dirt”.
Meanwhile, just the other side of Regent Street, London-based designer Marios Schwab – another former collaborator of Swarovski’s – has refashioned the fifth-floor terrace at Aqua Spirit, taking his 2015 spring/summer collection as inspiration. Monochrome, sharply cut Hellenic prints – a nod to his Greek ancestry – cover cushions with flashes of acid green and Chesterfield red; at night, an infinity mirror at the bar conjures up a fluid vista of shimmering figures.
Schwab and bar manager Luca Missaglia have worked on the cocktails too: my favourite was a heady blend of Cîroc vodka, smoky mezcal and fig liqueur. Superior bar snacks come from the adjacent Aqua Kyoto: crisp prawn and oba leaf tempura with a yuzu-spiked sauce, or maki sushi of salmon, intriguingly topped with little lozenges of jelly made from lobster bisque and miso.
Both Aqua Spirit and Sketch are perfect pit stops for foot-weary fashionistas seeking respite from the hurly-burly of Bond Street or Regent Street. But be warned: seated with a cocktail at either, it may seem a long way back to the shops.